2012 NFL Draft: Veteran Jobs Most Threatened by Incoming Draft Picks
After the draft, there is a rite of passage where a group of NFL veterans realize that their jobs are now in jeopardy based on their teams investing in draft picks at their positions. The youngsters will no doubt be expected to challenge for starting jobs, so the veterans know that from day one of training camp their work is cut out for them if they want to extend their careers in the NFL.
For some veterans like Drayton Florence (pictured), they won't even be allowed the chance to prove they can win the job in training camp, as players are already receiving pink slips around the league this week. Some of them will resurface with other teams, while others will be coming to the realization that it is time to begin their next career transition.
In this presentation, we will address the top 30 veterans whose starting jobs are now in jeopardy due to a 2012 NFL draft pick. It is possible that the rookie will be guaranteed a job, leaving two other veterans to duke it out for the backup spot.
Some of these 30 veterans have already received their bad news. For others, the end result won't be known until training camp. Either way, they are situations worth keeping an eye on as we inch our way towards the start of the regular season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive Line
As many times as Ben Roethlisberger has been asked to endure being laid out by a crushing blow when dropping back to pass over the past few years, it is only inevitable that some of the Steelers offensive linemen would find their jobs in jeopardy.
The Steelers invested in tackle Mike Adams and guard David DeCastro in the draft. Paired with other recent draft picks like center Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert and Willie Colon, that appears to be a pretty decent and athletic starting offensive line.
The rest of the Steelers offensive line is going to be placed on notice that the other remaining positions that are available for depth purposes, leaving only a few jobs for camp competition.
Assuming the Steelers keep either seven or eight offensive linemen total, several veteran heads that roll later this summer. From the group of Ramon Foster, Trai Essex, Jonathan Scott, Chris Scott and Doug Legursky, only two or three will make it.
Washington Redskins: Backup Quarterback
When the Washington Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III, you had to figure that one of the team's veteran starting quarterbacks might be in trouble. When the Redskins went ahead and drafted their second rookie quarterback, Kirk Cousins, they took the drama out of the situation by releasing John Beck shortly thereafter.
Now, the latest word from a tweet by Washington Times beat writer Rich Campbell is that Rex Grossman will now have to hold off Cousins if he wants to retain the backup quarterback job.
Since Beck was already released, I doubt that the Redskins would release Grossman even if he loses the battle in camp to Cousins. That being said, Grossman being relegated to third-string duties is a very real possibility.
Buffalo Bills: Secondary
Under new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt, it is clear that the Buffalo Bills have a veteran group on the defensive line but are going with a youth movement in the secondary.
The secondary saw two rookie corners added to the mix when the Bills drafted Stephon Gilmore in the first round and Ron Brooks in the fourth. The Bills also drafted two rookie corners in 2011 when they selected Aaron Williams in the second round and Justin Rogers in the seventh.
That means that the secondary is getting crowded, and one of the team's veterans like Terrence McGee or Leodis McKelvin may soon be following Drayton Florence out of town.
The Bills released Florence on May 4, and according to this story by Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News, the plan is for Williams and Gilmore to be the starting corners on the outside and for McGee to man the slot. The second slot will be up to Rogers or Brooks, leaving McKelvin to serve as depth and a punt returner.
But there are other punt return candidates on the roster, and the Bills may not want to invest a key roster spot in McKelvin, whose coverage skills seem to have actually gotten worse in the past two years.
McGee is no lock to make the team either, as he just can't seem to stay healthy enough to last for an entire season.
Cincinnati Bengals: Strong Safety
According to this article from ESPN.com, the Cincinnati Bengals will have a number of candidates vying for the starting strong safety job this year, ranging from for USC star Taylor Mays to rookie George Iloka.
As of now, it is anyone's guess who will win the job in training camp, but hopefully, the level of competition is such that it makes both players step up their game.
We will address the Bengals' cornerback battle later in the presentation.
Indianapolis Colts: No. 3 Wide Receiver
The Indianapolis Colts signed ex-St. Louis Rams wide receiver Donnie Avery to come in and challenge for the No. 3 wide receiver role in 2012. Then, they proceeded to draft two rookie wide receivers in the draft in T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazil.
One thing is clear: If Avery doesn't at least try to break up an interception, rather than stand there and watch it unfold in front of him (see picture), he will make it much easier for the rookies to beat him out.
You can be sure that the Colts won't be very fond of the receivers letting Andrew Luck's passes become sitting ducks for the secondary.
Cleveland Browns: Slot Receiver
The Akron Beacon Journal ran a story saying that the Cleveland Browns' slot wide receiver in 2012 will boil down to veteran Josh Cribbs or rookie speedster Travis Benjamin from Miami.
Benjamin was drafted in the fourth round, while Cribbs has been an explosive return man in the league for seven years.
Considering Cribbs has never topped 23 catches in any season until last year, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Benjamin beat him out for the job.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Nose Tackle
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been making a number of changes at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the 2012 offseason.
There might be one more change still to come.
The Steelers drafted nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu out of Washington, and he could very well displace veteran Casey Hampton as the starter. One of the main issues with Hampton is his health, or lack thereof. Hampton has already undergone three knee surgeries, so you have to wonder how much more abuse his ligaments can take.
According to Russ Lande of the Sporting News, Ta'amu was the best nose tackle in the 2012 draft class. The Steelers got a great deal when they were able to grab him with the 109th-overall pick in the draft.
Minnesota Vikings: Wide Receivers
Based on the results from 2011, it was obvious that the Minnesota Vikings needed to bring in some new talent to try to upgrade their wide receiver corps.
The Vikings have veterans Devin Aromashodu (pictured) and Michael Jenkins returning; plus, they signed Cincinnati Bengals free agent Jerome Simpson. To add to the competition, they also drafted a pair of rookie wide receivers from Arkansas in Jarius Wright and Greg Childs.
With that many receivers in play, Christian Ponder should have three strong wideout options to throw to. Who exactly those options are remains to be seen.
Tennessee Titans: Tight End
One of the position battles expected to take place for the Tennessee Titans is at tight end. The Titans are bringing back veteran Daniel Graham, but he is going to be challenged by rookie Taylor Thompson.
The way things appear now, according to this story from The Nashville Tennessean, the job should probably go to Thompson, whom the Titans drafted with a fifth-round pick. One of the most interesting angles of this battle is that Thompson was a defensive end at SMU, and the Titans are going to convert him to the tight end position.
Graham isn't much of a receiver, as he only caught two passes in the 2011 season. It is hard to pay a tight end $2 million to basically be a blocker, so it wouldn't be surprising if Graham lost his job.
New York Jets: Inside Linebacker
Bart Scott's position with the New York Jets was already tenuous at best, and that was where things stood before the draft. The Jets had granted permission for Scott to seek a trade a full month prior to the draft.
But nothing was able to be worked out, and since Scott's salary of $4.2 million is fully guaranteed for 2012, the Jets' hands are tied. Nonetheless, they can at least light a fire under Scott by bringing in some competition. Enter No. 77 overall pick Demario Davis.
ESPN New York writer Rich Cimini watched Davis at the Jets' rookie minicamp and said he was impressed with what he saw. Scott better be on his game when training camp opens.
Detroit Lions: Cornerback
According to this article from DetroitLions.com, there are three rookies that will be challenging veteran Aaron Berry to see who winds up as a starting corner for the Lions opposite Chris Houston.
Berry will face competition from rookies Dwight Bentley (overall pick No. 85), Chris Greenwood (overall pick No. 148) and Jonte Green (overall pick No. 196). Veteran Jacob Lacey is also in the conversation.
Clearly, the Lions have addressed their depth at corner with this draft class, so they shouldn't have too steep of a drop in talent if one of their starters gets hurt.
Green Bay Packers: Safeties
When the Green Bay Packers parted ways with Nick Collins, they signaled that there would be changes made to the secondary—sweeping changes, in fact. It appears that much of the changes revolve around the capabilities of the team's 2012 draft class.
Green Bay invested in two rookies for the secondary in the past draft, selecting Vanderbilt corner Casey Hayward at No. 62 overall and Maine safety Jerron McMillian at No. 133 overall. According to this story from the Green Bay Press Gazette, the Packers might wind up with two rookie starters in the secondary in 2012.
It is conceivable that Hayward could emerge as a starting corner based on his evaluation. Whether he is truly ready won't be known until training camp. If he is deemed ready, then Charles Woodson would be feed up to move over to safety.
Who would then become the other safety? That looks like it would boil down to either veteran Charlie Peprah or McMillian.
It looks like the Packers are clearly going to be getting younger in the secondary this year, but that would probably also create some rookie growing pains. If the Pack continue to score points the way they did in 2011, the team can probably live with the mistakes.
Baltimore Ravens: Starting Left Guard
The Baltimore Ravens have one established starting guard in Marshall Yanda. But as for the other starting guard, there is a pretty big void created by the departure of Ben Grubbs. Who will wind up taking Grubbs' place for the Ravens in 2012?
If you look at the Ravens roster right now, you will note the following names listed at guard: Howard Barbieri, Justin Boren, Gino Gradkowski and Yanda. You figure that Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher will be starting tackles, so maybe the Ravens will consider moving either Jah Reid or draft pick Kelechi Osemele (pictured) over to the guard spot vacated by Grubbs. Osemele is likely the favorite.
None of the guards listed outside of Yanda has any major experience to speak of, so this appears to be a battle set for training camp to let the best man win. Aaron Wilson tweeted that the Ravens have already signed Osemele to a four-year deal, so he will likely enter the fray as the favorite. He did play guard his freshman year at Iowa State, so he has some experience going in.
Cincinnati Bengals: Guard
The developments with Cincinnati Bengals guard Jacob Bell have been interesting to say the least.
Bell is 31 years old and has been playing as a starter throughout his NFL career. In the first week of April, Bell, a free agent, signed a new contract to join the Bengals. One month later, Bell announced his retirement from the NFL.
What happened to him in that one-month time period to change his mind?
For one thing, the Bengals drafted guard Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin in the first round, meaning that Bell would be relegated to being a backup guard. The other major factor was the suicide of Junior Seau.
According to this story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Seau's suicide weighed heavily on Bell. He told the Post-Dispatch that he would see stars a couple times per week while playing in the NFL, so you are talking about roughly 30 concussions per year. Bell decided to get out before it was too late.
Houston Texans: No. 3 Wide Receiver
Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter are back to serve as the leading wide receivers for the Houston Texans in 2012. But, who will wind up being their No. 3 wide receiver, getting the most snaps out of the slot? Jacoby Jones is no longer with the team and is now a member of the Baltimore Ravens.
For now, the slot receiver is up for grabs between returning second-year man Lestar Jean and rookie DeVier Posey (pictured), whom the Texans drafted in the third round, according to this story from the Houston Chronicle.
Secondaries will be keying on Andre Johnson, so if the Texans can learn to take advantage of one-on-one coverage on the slot receiver, it would be a plus for the offense.
Minnesota Vikings: Kicker
Ryan Longwell has been the field-goal kicker for the Minnesota Vikings for the past six years. Prior to that, he did the same thing for the Green Bay Packers for nine years. That makes 15 straight years kicking in the NFC North.
That all came to an end when the Vikings decided it was time to get younger at the position and drafted Georgia kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round of the draft. Within a week, the team released Longwell.
It will be interesting to see if Longwell catches on with another team or if he decides to call it a career.
San Diego Chargers: Outside Linebacker
The San Diego Chargers knew that they needed to upgrade the amount of pressure that they put on opposing quarterbacks. One area they could upgrade was at outside linebacker.
Prior to the draft, the group included Shaun Phillips, Jarret Johnson, Antwan Barnes, Travis LaBoy and Larry English. When the Chargers were on the clock with the No. 18 overall pick, they were ecstatic to see that Melvin Ingram was still available on the big board. The Chargers didn't hesitate to take advantage and turn some of their pass-rushing woes over to Ingram.
Once that decision was made, it wasn't much longer before the Chargers decided to release veteran Travis LaBoy. But will anyone else lose their job?
The Chargers brought in free agent Jarret Johnson, so between Johnson and Ingram, the Chargers hope that they upgrade the defense for 2012. They sure took a tumble in 2011, going from the No. 1 overall defense in the NFL in 2010 to No. 16 in 2011.
Dallas Cowboys: No. 3 Wide Receiver
Tony Romo still has Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin to throw the football to in 2012. Laurent Robinson, however, is gone. So who is going to step up and take his place for the Cowboys this year?
Kevin Ogletree returns, but he will be challenged by rookie Danny Coale, whom the Cowboys drafted in the fifth round. Coale played as a slot receiver in college, and at 6'0", has decent size.
Other challengers to the job range from Dwayne Harris to Raymond Radway to Andre Holmes.
Philadelphia Eagles: Backup Quarterback
We all know that the Philadelphia Eagles will start Michael Vick in 2012 unless he gets hurt. What we don't know is what the pecking order will be behind him.
The Eagles did draft a rookie quarterback in 2012, as they nabbed Nick Foles with the No. 88 overall pick.
But who will emerge as the backup to Michael Vick? That seems to be a two-headed race now between Trent Edwards and Mike Kafka. Perhaps both would have made the team if the Eagles didn't draft Foles, but now with the rookie on board, Reid will have to pick only one veteran to stay.
As per this story from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Edwards is happy to take on the challenge.
Dallas Cowboys: Cornerback
When the Dallas Cowboys traded up in the first round of the 2012 draft to acquire LSU corner Morris Claiborne, it created a ripple impact on the Cowboys secondary.
The Cowboys already had invested heavily in free agent Brandon Carr, which forces Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins to slot duty or to the bench. In the case of Jenkins, it could be to the trade market, but due to his expensive contract, there may not be any takers.
Dallas is holding out for a significant offer, as per this tweet from Pro Football Talk, but the team will be hard-pressed to see that come to fruition.
Atlanta Falcons: Fullback
Atlanta Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli probably wasn't celebrating (see picture) when the Falcons drafted fullback Bradie Ewing from Wisconsin with the 157th-overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Mughelli has been a fixture in Atlanta for the past five years, but all of that ended when the team decided to part ways with him. Mughelli was released on May 8.
It was a perfect storm of sorts going against Mughelli. He was on the wrong side of 30, he was getting expensive ($3 million salary) and he was coming off a major injury. With that many things going against him, it's tough to fault the Falcons.
Washington Redskins: Center
Who will be hiking the ball to Robert Griffin III this year for the Washington Redskins?
According to this tweet from Chris Russell, the Redskins drafted Josh LeRibeus in the third round, and they had LeRibeus spend all of his time at the rookie minicamp making snaps from center.
Veteran Will Montgomery will be batting with LeRibeus for the starting job. Since both players have no history with Griffin, the competition could be wide open. The veteran Montgomery knows the offense better, however, and might have the early edge.
Minnesota Vikings: Strong Safety
The Vikings might be awfully young when it comes to their safeties in 2012. We already know that they felt strongly about Harrison Smith, so his selection in the first round all but ensures he will be the starter at free safety this year.
But what about at strong safety? That is a position that is not so clear cut. The Vikings drafted another rookie safety, Robert Blanton, in the fifth round of the draft. He will be battling veterans Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford to see who lines up next to Smith.
Tennessee Titans: Defensive Tackle
When the Tennessee Titans decided to draft defensive tackle Mike Martin (pictured on the right) from Michigan with the No. 82 overall pick in the 2012 draft, it was a sign that a change could be coming at one of the starting defensive tackle slots.
This story from the Nashville Tennessean believes that Martin will be a key to the Titans improving their run defense.
The Titans have veteran Sen'Derrick Marks set to battle Martin for the starting role, but it sounds like a given that Martin will beat him out.
Other defensive tackles in a rotational set include Shaun Smith, Malcolm Sheppard and possibly undrafted rookie free agent DaJohn Harris.
Cincinnati Bengals: Cornerback
According to this blog report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, cornerback Nate Clements will be asked to fight off first-round draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick for the starting job in Cincy. Based on Clements' advanced age and how highly thought of Kirkpatrick is, it would be a surprise if the rookie didn't win the starting nod.
Not only is Clements on the downside of his career, but he is also a financial liability, as his current contract calls for him to count $5.5 million against the salary cap. Add in a final obstacle of veteran Terence Newman, who is a much cheaper option, and the deck appears to be stacked against Clements.
New York Jets: Defensive End
This photo is of New York Jets defensive end Mike DeVito tackling Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Little did these two players know that they would be teammates the following year and both relegated to backup roles, to boot.
Tebow, of course, is backing up Mark Sanchez, while it appears that DeVito will serve as backup to first-round draft pick Quinton Coples. At least DeVito was smart enough to be able to read the writing on the wall and agreed to slash his salary for the 2012 season, according to this story from the Newark Star-Ledger.
After reading through all of the fine print, DeVite only lost about $600,000 rather than losing his job. That is what I would call a wily veteran.
Miami Dolphins: Starting Quarterback
The Dolphins have three quarterbacks that you could build a case for why each of the three could emerge as the opening day starter. The three quarterbacks in question are the rookie, Ryan Tannehill, along with veterans Matt Moore and David Garrard.
First-round draft pick Tannehill is the only quarterback that has extensive experience operating in offensive coordinator Mike Sherman's scheme from his days at Texas A&M.
As for Moore, the Dolphins were playing much better with him as the starting quarterback in the second half of the 2011 season.
Garrard is the most experienced quarterback of the trio, but after sitting out the entire 2011 season, you have to wonder how long it will take him to shake off the rust at age 34.
Cleveland Browns: Starting Quarterback
When the Cleveland Browns drafted Brandon Weeden with the No. 22 overall pick, they were viewing Weeden as their new starting quarterback. Weeden is older than Colt McCoy, but is also thought to have the stronger passing arm.
That means that the veterans on the roster, McCoy and Seneca Wallace, are left to battle it out to see who becomes the backup to Weeden, though a slim possibility remains that the Browns retain both quarterbacks.
As per this article by Mary Kay Cabot from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns want Weeden to earn the starting job in training camp, and it would be considered a major upset if Weeden wasn't able to beat out the two veterans.
McCoy could still be traded away, but right now, there has not been a stampede of NFL teams knocking on the Browns' door to determine if he is available.
Seattle Seahawks: Starting Quarterback
In what promises to be one of the most interesting position battles for any NFL team, there will be the open competition to determine the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.
By all indications from Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, the team fully intends to hold an open competition between the three challengers and let the best man win. The competitors include incumbent starting veteran Tarvaris Jackson, recently acquired Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson from Wisconsin.
Though the job is likely Flynn's to close, it sounds like Carroll will try to give as long a look as he can to all three quarterbacks and see what they can do.
Veterans That Will Probably Retire
There are some players that retire because they have finally come to peace with the idea that it is their time to walk away from the game. Then there are those other players, often times former superstars, that do not retire on their own terms.
The veterans that fall into this strange grey area include running back LaDainian Tomlinson, quarterback Donovan McNabb, tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Terrell Owens. While it is possible one or more of them might still find a team to play for in 2012, the most likely scenario is that they have played their final game and it is time to walk away while they still can walk.
Other players that could join the above group this year are Cedric Benson, Nick Collins, Chad Ochocinco and Plaxico Burress. We have already witnessed the retirement announcements from Hines Ward and Mark Brunell, with more sure to follow.